Augmented Reality games might not be as groundbreaking or as immersive as Virtual Reality games, but thanks to a certain game about pocket monsters (I’m talking about Pokemon GO, in case you’re wondering), they are about to make a serious comeback. Will the rising popularity of AR affect future MMOs, or even the ones we’re already playing today? And how will it be any different than what VR has to offer?
We’ll try and answer the second question first. To do that, we need to understand that VR and AR are fundamentally different. We already talked about MMOs and VR, and we established that it is currently used as more of an “immersion device” to enhance the gaming experience, but not really affect it all too much. AR, on the other hand, can change the way a game is played almost completely. AR doesn’t whisk you away to a whole new virtual world, but rather brings the game’s world into the real one. The result is a hybrid of real and digital environments that can indeed do wonders for immersion, but is first and foremost about gameplay.
If we look at the example set by Pokemon GO, Augmented Reality is perfect for bringing fantasy into the real world. Millions of people all over the world are now walking around, pretending they are Pokemon trainers thanks to a little AR magic. We see no reason why MMOs can’t do the same, but with wizards, commanders and warlords. An AR MMO can allow players to go outside on actual quests using their mobile devices. Players will use their screens to see and attack monsters, or detect hidden treasures, all the while remaining perfectly immersed in the game world through their screens. Other players will appear as their avatars when viewed through the phone’s camera, and will join together to overcome especially difficult challenges in predetermined locations.
With an MMORTS, AR might not be as immersive as with an MMORPG, but it can be much more useful. Imagine being able to use your phone or tablet to see a 3D model of your Base or any battlefield on any flat surface. You’ll be able to zoom in on individual Units and give them commands, or easily manage your defenses and buildings. Better yet, what if a 3D model of an enemy Base can be a part of the intel gathered by Spies? That will most definitely be useful when planning an attack against it. As I said, it might not sound as cool as being able to see a dragon flying above your home neighborhood, but it could be a very powerful tool to the tactically-inclined.
Since MMOs are usually large-scale experiences, an AR-only MMO might not be realistic, or even smart. We believe we will start seeing AR as an add-on to existing MMOs, in the form of AR-only or AR-supported quests, rather than full games. AR can, and will, add new dimensions to MMOs and online games, be it Strategy, Role-playing games or pretty much any sub-genre you can think of.
It might be a bit difficult to predict which version of Reality - the Virtual or Augmented - will prevail when it comes to MMOs - at least at the moment. On the one hand, AR is much more accessible than VR, and does not require any special equipment beyond a mobile device with a camera. On the other, VR is considered by many to be a much more “hardcore” experience, while AR is considered “casual”.
If the AR trend does indeed come out on top, we will be slaying monsters in the streets and launching nuclear strikes from a coffee shop table on a daily basis. However, we still need to remember to always be mindful of the real world around us, no matter how boring it is.